Raising bilingual kids

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-12-2004
Raising bilingual kids
13
Thu, 10-08-2009 - 10:51am
Hi, my name is Gunilla. I'm originally from Sweden but is now married and live in Florida. I have two little girls, 1 and 3, that I am only speaking Swedish to. My husband does not speak any Swedish.
My dilemma now is that my 3 year old is all in to learning about her letters and numbers, is already writing her name plus several other words.
My question is this: How do I continue teaching her? All the books and material I have for her is in English, everything around her is in English, and the only one that speaks Swedish is me, and eventually her younger sister (who is still in the babbling stage LOL). But I want her to learn Swedish as well - my dad still lives in Sweden and don't speak much English.
What do you use to teach your kids?
Thanks for any help or suggestions.



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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-09-2007
Fri, 10-09-2009 - 6:33am

Welcome to Bilingual Families Gunilla!

 
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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2003
Fri, 10-09-2009 - 11:03am
Welcome to the board!

Sarah...mommy to Janessa and Julian


iVillage Member
Registered: 01-12-2004
Fri, 10-09-2009 - 11:28am

Thanks Tulip and Sarah!
I do have several books in Swedish that I read to them. I'll try to find some other material online as well, thanks for the tip. :)




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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-21-2008
Fri, 10-09-2009 - 1:07pm
Welcome to the board, Gunilla!

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iVillage Member
Registered: 08-29-2002
Sat, 10-10-2009 - 4:17pm

Hi Gunilla,

I'm an American and have lived in Sweden for over 11 years now. My kids are pretty much growing up Swedish (dd was born here; they are now 14 and 10) and are fairly fluently trilingual (Swedish, English, German). I have to be quite honest: you are facing a rather uphill battle as you speak a very minority language and are surrounded by a language that tends to really dominate world-wide.

Having said that, however, it is still quite doable for you to ensure that your daughters have at least a passive grasp of Swedish, and it can be possible for them to even end up very actively speaking Swedish. A lot depends on what your ultimate goals are, how much time and effort you are willing spend on it, and how willing your husband is to either learn Swedish or put up with you speaking a lot of Swedish with the kids :-).

First, speak to them in Swedish at all times. Never start switching to English, even if they keep responding in English. Speak to them in Swedish at home and everywhere outside the home. People may look oddly at you at times, but it is well worth the effort! My kids went through phases when they flatly refused to respond to my husband in German. He persevered, however, and now they generally fairly consistently speak to him in German. For some reason, they never refused to speak English, but that is not really typical. This will be hard, particularly since your husband doesn't speak Swedish. But he might actually pick some up from your conversations with the girls. This is the part where your husband has to be really on board with the project. If he can deal with missing a lot of the conversation in order to ensure steady exposure to Swedish, it will be much easier to stick to the plan of always speaking in Swedish.

Second, if your older daughter is getting really interested in letters and numbers, get your father to buy workbooks for beginning readers in Swedish. There are a whole series of workbooks available that my kids really liked. Any semi-decent toy store or bookstore has them. Work with her on letters and numbers only in Swedish. Don't worry about teaching her reading or math skills in English right now; once she works out how to read in Swedish, she'll transfer those skills to English amazingly quickly. I did the opposite with my kids: I started them on reading in English and German before they started school then let them figure it out in Swedish at school. It didn't take them more than a month or so to be as good in Swedish reading skills as they were in English.

Third, check out whether your father can send out Swedish DVDs or whether you can watch Swedish kids shows on the internet. For example, try the Bolibompa site:

http://svt.se/2.101414/bolibompa_portalsajt?lid=index_314753&lpos=sajt&from=innehall_ao

I have to admit that I was incredibly strict with the kids about what they were allowed to watch on tv. Essentially, they were only allowed to watch things in English or German, never Swedish. I figured they got enough exposure to Swedish stuff every day so I needed to keep the home as English/German as possible. I think there may be a lot available for kids online in Swedish, so check around to see what you can find.

Ultimately, even if the kids don't speak much Swedish back to you, if you have been very consistent about speaking Swedish to them, they will have an excellent passive grasp of the language. Passive bilinguals generally become active bilinguals very quickly when put in situations where they have to speak the second language. If you can swing it, try to get to Sweden as often as possible. Every visit to the U.S. reinforced the kids' desire to speak English, which made my life much easier afterward.

Hope this helps a bit! Good luck!

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-12-2004
Sat, 10-10-2009 - 9:22pm

Thank you Laura! You've given me some great advice!
I have been exclusively speaking Swedish to my oldest daughter since she was 3 mos old (it took me that long to get used to it again! LOL), and that is all I speak to her and my younger one. My husband has been very supportive about it, he knows how important it is to me. And I do it at home as well as when we are out. Also, when she speaks English to me, I usually repeat it in Swedish so that she gets it in both languages, and then I answer her back.
Thanks again. :)




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iVillage Member
Registered: 11-16-2001
Sat, 10-10-2009 - 11:26pm

Welcome to the board, Gunilla!

Everyone has given you great suggestions :-)



iVillage Member
Registered: 08-29-2002
Sun, 10-11-2009 - 2:28am

That's great! When the spouse is fully supportive, the whole project becomes so much easier!! In our case, it was easier because we both fluently speak each others' native language. It does make for rather interesting dinner table conversation, linguistically speaking, though ;-).

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-09-2007
Mon, 10-12-2009 - 2:40am

Hi Laura and welcome!

 
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-09-2007
Mon, 10-12-2009 - 3:02am

I think you will find that the system of you speaking Swedish and your husband speaking English to your kids will work out.

 

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